April 9 2007

My first thought when asked to review a ‘boutique’ hotel, was something along the lines of ‘God help me’. It seems this new breed of hotel was designed purely for city boys and city girls to pour money into for the duration of yet another pointless business trip.  Overpriced, understaffed, and all because people want a kooky carpet in every room. 

So it was with a strange recalcitrance that I walked into London’s Zetter hotel for my Sunday night stay. The former 19th century warehouse sits on the Clerkenwell Road amidst design houses and refurbished blocks in the increasingly trendy Farringdon. Opened in 2004 by Michael Benyan and Mark Sainsbury — the pair behind acclaimed restaurant Moro in nearby Exmouth Market — the focus is strongly on cutting edge-design and eco-friendly living. Natural light floods in from the building's five-storey semi-elliptical atrium, while a borehole drilled beneath the property provides water purified and bottled for drinking.

The tiny lobby is dominated by its chandelier of pink glass calla lilies, and offers three options. To your right, a wood panelled, cork stooled bar, with the Mediterranean themed restaurant beyond. To your left, a small, perfectly formed reception desk. And straight ahead, the red mirrored, boudoir themed lifts. 

Reaching the fifth floor, the aspects of design suddenly become more apparent. The large atrium pushes natural light through the building, and the artwork from local artists breaks up the slightly drab pastel décor. My room for the evening didn’t feel like your bog-standard abode. The eclectic mix of original Penguin Classics, wide screen TV and soft furnishings felt more like an affluent teenagers bedroom than twenty something playground. The enormous wood decked balcony matched the room in size, while London’s newly emerging skyline provided the perfect backdrop.

Add to this ambient mood lighting, free wireless broadband, DVD player and access to a 4000-track music library, my preconceptions of ‘trendy’ hotels suddenly seemed a bit archaic.  The hotel has done away with the outdated amenities that characterise so many other establishments. Most rooms don't have a mini-bar or tea-and coffee-making facilities. Instead, coffee and vending machines on each floor dispense everything from champagne to disposable cameras. Greeting fellow travellers in matching robe and slippers while buying a bottle of champagne is surprisingly relaxing.  

What started out as another over priced, poncy auberge, became a well thought out, modest getaway for the design orientated traveller. But then again, there’s nothing worse than a pretentious critic being proved wrong. By Matthew Hussey


April 9 2007

A new week, a hot new bar: Melbourne.

Some cities put their drinking holes on bold display. All glass frontage and brazen invitation. Some don't. Melbourne is certainly in the latter camp and, so not surprisingly, its latest bar offering, New Gold Mountain - is a hole-in-the-wall affair found down a cobble-stoned laneway and somewhat reminiscent of a womb. Or the inside of I Dream of Jeannie's bottle.

New Gold Mountain, is brought to us by a team of four locals who've worked in leading bars in Melbourne and London. They've teamed with young Australian architect Cassandra Fahey, who for those who follow such things, designed the controversial house for Australian football sensationalist Sam Newman back in 2000... the one with the two story glass frontage imbedded with Pamela Anderson's face. For this project, Fayey took the old tailor's studio on the outskirts of the city's Chinatown district and created a space that works to a distinct opium den theme. Downstairs speaks of colonial-era Shanghai, with two fireplaces decorated with the Chinese zodiac. Upstairs is the Poppy Room featuring plush pink fabrics suspended from the ceiling. And nana-esque furniture. Pretty and comforting. Just as Jeannie would like it.
And the drinks? They specialize in sours. The music? Something described as "nouvelle-vague-Joy Division revisions". Which certainly pegs the clientele into a certain age bracket. A space you might have to track down yourself, but will certainly envelope you once you're in. Sarah W

Share It:  
More Bars
Tags: Bars


April 8 2007

To the relief of many, a visit to a winery no longer has to resemble an agricultural outing with the mandatory trudging along dirt paths and in dark cellars listening to winegrowers go on and on about the terroir of their cru. Wineries — and not just in the newer wine-producing regions — are starting to wake up to today’s design sensibilities.

With winery buildings now often designed by famous architects, and with spectacular winery hotels, wineries with luxurious spas, cool wine-tasting bars, and imaginative wine shops popping up everywhere, the once stuffy wine culture is beginning to feel a bit more like something that even someone without a burning interest in either viti- or viniculture could enjoy.

Wineries are now full-blown brands, where everything from the buildings all the way down to the towels used in the winery’s spa reflects the brand story and the brand identity. This is not to say that the wine itself no longer matters. On the contrary. Most often, the more passionate the wine growing and the more distinctive the qualities of the wine, the more attention is paid to the overall brand. Of course, money plays a role here as well. If the wine is no good and nobody buys it, there isn’t likely to be a designer spa on the property.

An early example of a winery that took the winery visit idea a bit further is the Wilson Daniels estate winery Pegase di Domaine Clos in California’s Napa Valley. It’s often touted as a place of pilgrimage and “America’s first monument to wine as art.” Designed by Michael Graves and completed in 1987, the intriguing winery structure with its 20,000 square feet of caves now houses 1,000 works of art including Salvador Dali, Henry Moore and Francis Bacon.

A more recent example of winery-as-design-destination is the Frank Gehry-designed Hotel Marques de Riscal in the medieval Spanish village of Elciego. The startling Gehry building, located at one of the oldest vineyards in Spain, has 43 rooms, a cooking school and two elite restaurants. The spa offers specialized wine therapy treatments that with the help of the wine’s antioxidant properties are said to relieve stress and slow ageing.

So although we are duly impressed with those who are fluent with appellations, terroirs and crus, we must admit that we are more drawn to all things beautiful to the eye. So we’d love to see more of the world’s most amazing wineries, wine-tasting bars, wine showrooms and winery hotels. Let us know where they are, so that we can share the joy with the world. Send your tips to [email protected] or via here . By Tuija Seipell\

Share It:  

April 2 2007

Crystal Castles, the Toronto two-piece, are the remix artist of now.  The first sniff of their mastery came in the remix of The Klaxons’ Atlantis to Interzone’ - a blippy, abrasive entry into their electronic wonderland.

Then came the Castles’ remix of the Goodbooks’ ‘Leni’ which turned the original guitar pop goodness into a future-pop masterpiece.  ‘Leni’ hinged on the pitch-shifted central vocal, reminiscent of Karin Dreijer from The Knife. Underneath the vocal, the track chugs along on the back of a hi-res synth loop and Super Mario keyboard squelches. It’s the sound of a couple, madly in love, freebasing orange sherbet. 

The nadir of the Castles’ discography is the remix of The Little Ones’ ‘Lovers Who Uncover’. Opening with the desperate cry of, ‘Where do all the lovers, meet with one another?’, the track again centres on a haunting central vocal and a driving low end. The arpeggio makes you feel like a kid staring through a kaleidoscope and the voice rattles up and down, building intensity then releasing into the distance with an ecstatic ‘ooooh’. 

While their original work is yet to reach its potential, their remixes are enough to make you dream of a future musical world ruled by Crystal Castles. I Heart CC. By Nick Christie


March 28 2007

Every once in a while, a song comes along that flattens you.  The kind of song that make you pull the car over, turn the engine off and wrench up the volume. Right now, Gui Boratto's 'Beautiful Life' is that song. 

Gui Boratto is a Brazilian architect/musician/composer/producer and his new album 'Chromophobia' will likely be the first you've heard of Brazilian electronic music. In short, it's bliss.

'Beautiful Life' is the album's clear standout, the kind of song that's as much pure pop as it is electronic. As the female vocal repeats, 'What a beautiful life, what a beautiful life', Boratto brings a heartbeat to the often metronomic precision of synthesizers, lifting them up euphorically as the song builds in pulsing, melodic waves.  Running at over eight minutes, you might imagine things dragging on too long. But as the beat whirrs to a close, you'll be reaching for the repeat button, wishing that the 'Beautiful Life' would never end. By Nick Christie

Random Archive



March 28 2007

Do not let the IKEA-yellow exterior fool you — the multifunctional Agora Theatre, is not displaying home furnishings, but bustling with performances and new media works. It is located in Lelystad, the capital of the province of Flevoland in the Netherlands. The city, established as recently as 1967 and known for its controversial and forward-thinking city planning, is boldly building its center, the Centrale Zone, according to a master plan by West 8. In turn, West 8 is known for planning a vast array of exciting 'cityscapes', including a luxury village near Moscow and the waterfront revitalization project in Toronto.
The Agora Theatre building is the work of UN Studio, a group with theater, museum and art establishment expertise. The building itself is worth a visit, even if no performances were taking place (previews are already taking place). The tranquil cafe, open during the day, offers beautiful views of the square outside. The startling pink curving walls of the staircases resemble magnificent silk ribbons. And the deliciously red concert hall with its unusual wall surfaces will give you something to look at, even in the rare case that the performance doesn’t interest you. This is one building that will change the vibe of the city, both day and night. By Tuija Seipell.


March 27 2007

Isbank in Turkey have created this billboard ad which has passers-by literally stopping in their tracks. From a distance one sees what appears to be a cop car hiding behind a billboard, which automatically makes the passer by slow down enough to read the small text on the board. "Pay your traffic tickets on time without waiting in line -". To ad insult to injury, it then becomes apparent that the cop car is a fake cut out. Advertising bastardry at its best. By Andy G

Share It:  
More Ads
Tags: Ads , Vilnius

March 27 2007

The holiday home or summer-house by definition, is a building constructed with a strictly defined personality. For the temporary inhabitant, it is to provide a sense of escape without abandonment, and leisure without effort. It’s very existence is to promote feelings and moods not experienced in our everyday lives. A temporary euphoria squeezed between four walls for a period of the users choosing. It is a social engineer’s architectural dream.   

This idea of temporary elation has existed for centuries. But the concept exploded with the onset of modernism and the twentieth century.  A newly emerging middle class sought escapism from the polluted cities while still enjoying the comforts of their newly industrialized homes. A Modernist belief that experience was shaped through design spearheaded the mass-production of seasonal dwelling. Le Corbusier described buildings as “machines for living” and architecture was bent to supply the petit bourgeoisie’s need for leisure and relaxation. Buildings were simplified, historical references and ornament were removed in favor of promoting the beauty of modern materials and construction. Concrete and its featureless character became the material of choice in the construction of buildings throughout Europe and North America. Their homogenous appearance celebrated by Brutalist architects but condemned by post-modernists for their flagrant disregard towards the social, historic, and architectural environment of its surroundings. 

Today, this form of design is considered to be archaic in its principles. Concrete is seen to be aesthetically vacuous, and is used structurally rather than visually. Instead, glass facades and organic materials are a building’s ornaments. But a team of architects in Austria have resurrected the ideological trappings of modernist thinkers to create a unique and eerily beautiful interpretation of the holiday villa. Set on lake Millstatter See in Austria, this four-story villa is an ode to the idealism of the holiday homes of old, but simultaneously sits in the avant-garde.

Much of the design was adapted from the hotel that stood previously on the original plot, and can be seen in the bold and unrelenting expanses of concrete. But rather than mask the commanding stretches of grey matter, the team have embraced and adorned the blank walls to become a key part of the building’s persona. The vast expanses complemented by materials that not only enhance the concrete’s authority, but also mimic it in character.  Pale, smooth furniture occupy the inside, while white decking and exposed brick-work dominate the outside. The effect of which, can feel arresting at first, but develops a strange allure when looked at up close.

The building is a prime example of the brutal, unrelenting style of design from the 1950s, but the overhaul of ideas has transformed it into a testament to the contemporary. The fluid transition between interior and exterior, coupled with the large openings throughout the build, allow nature to flow through the cold interior, giving it a warm and organic feel. While the geometric shapes of the building draw imposing silhouettes on the lake and the surrounding countryside. 

The minimal material concept; structural concrete in combination with white painted wood and metal surfaces, lends the building a monolithic character. But the upper floors of the building have an intimate, personal feel that doesn’t compromise the need for personal space.

It’s a building that screams arrogance and in places can feel a little soulless.  But the sheer audacity of its form juxtaposed with its purpose as a leisure facility, offers an intriguing concept that hasn’t been seen since Modernism dared to challenge the purpose of design and the human condition. By Matthew Hussey


March 22 2007


Baggage claims at airports get more and more interesting for advertisers. The Venice Casino uses the moving ad space to communicate with tourists. Additionally free tickets for the casino get shared to the tourist.

Share It:  
More Ads
Tags: Ads

March 17 2007

Whilst the surf may be up Down Under at present, it's also letting rip in Munich. Just outside the “Haus der Kunst” museum, sits a canal who's wildly gushing rapids have created the cities underground surfing spot de jour.

The rapids supply local surfing buffs with ample waves, keeping their surfing skills sharp throughout the winter. It seems its one man at a time at this surfing hole, so future enthusiasts need to join the queue. Unlike the Aussies, these German surfers need not worry about sharks. By Billy T (photographed exclusively for TCH by our German spotter, Gunnar)

Share It: